The only false note was a whole grilled fresh Royal Dorado (from Baja waters), which despite our pleas was overcooked dry. A salsa verde went a long way to moistening it again and offered the right zesty tang to flatter the lean, mild fish.
After the clean, clear flavors of our appetizers and entrées, for a change we actually looked forward to dessert. A Meyer lemon custard tart was tiny but sparkling, with sugar-glazed dried lemon slices standing up straight in the sweet-sour custard. The crust was crumbly, and the dish was strewn with fresh blueberries. A strawberry-rhubarb panna cotta was disappointingly solid -- and stolid, with a gratuitous topping of fruit gelatin. "After the panna cottas made by Jack Fisher [now at Jack's La Jolla]," said Lynne, "I expect it to be shivery and trembling, not this firm and pedestrian." The best of that dessert was a garnish of ripe chopped strawberries and a petite mound of basil sorbet.
We all agreed we'd go back anytime. "The food is running a really high average," Lynne summed up, "and you don't have to dress up for it." For all its spiffy decor and fairly high prices, JRDN combines the virtues of a neighborhood hangout with precise and delightful cooking that highlights every flavor and disguises none of them. The food is just right for the summery, breezy atmosphere: It's a day at the beach.
ABOUT THE CHEF
The opening chef at JRDN was Victor Jimenez (formerly of Gringo's, Thee Bungalow, and Gulf Coast Grill). When Victor took some time out to relax and travel (word is, he's in India right now), his second-in-command, David Warner, was promoted to executive chef. (This is not, needless to say, the distinguished British actor of the same name.)